Yeah, elections will go off without a hitch here
Samarra lies in the heart of the Sunni triangle, the area of land west and north-west of Baghdad where resistance is fiercest. Cities such as Samarra, along with Tikrit, Bayji, Falluja and Ramadi, have become battle zones where US soldiers have died and hundreds more have been wounded. The Sunni tribes who live in the region benefited most from Saddam's reign. Now, stripped of the privileges and power that the Baathist regime brought them, they are fighting hard.
The reason, Al-Alawi said, was simple. 'If there is one thing worse than Saddam, it is being invaded by the foreigners. Especially American foreigners.'
Columns of tanks now prowl the 'liberated' city 24 hours a day, kicking up the dust, scattering children. Roads are randomly closed and rolls of barbed wire laid by the Fourth Infantry Division, the unit that captured Saddam. Local Iraqi police paramilitaries screen all cars, wearing balaclavas to hide their features. One local doctor, Aisar Al-Samarrai, complained that his clinic was regularly hit by gunfire.
According to Sheikh Adnan Thabit, who sits on the town's religious council, 'there is a now a full stand-off between the resistance and the Americans'.
Humvee-mounted patrols comb the sand-coloured residential areas street by street, house by house. Every dawn there are raids. Some 120 suspects were arrested last week. The resistance mounts daily attacks, gaining in sophistication. Once it was small-arms fire, now it is mines and bombs. Earlier this month a convoy delivering new 'Saddam-free' currency to a bank was ambushed. The Americans claim they killed between 40 and 58 resistance fighters. Locals say the dead were mostly innocent civilians and some Iranian pilgrims.
Graffiti all over the city make the sentiments clear. 'Spies: hide your faces now ... Tomorrow we will show who you are,' says one. Some slogans, 'American soldiers: Our armed struggle continues without end endlessly' are in English. Another, similar, message scrawled across a school wall, was promptly demolished by a tank.
The resistance in Samarra is not hard to find. In a side street is 'Hasni', with regulation leather jacket and machine gun. He told The Observer why he had taken up arms. 'This is not Tikrit. This is not a Baath Party city. We in Samarra are the oldest tribe of Iraq, and Saddam was afraid to come here. We are fighting a foreigner, not for Saddam, not for Islam, but for Samarra and Iraq.'
'Hasni' stressed it would be unfair to 'criticise the Americans for everything they do'. 'When they do good, we must say so. But they are making a big mistake to put back into power all the corrupt people and treat us as slaves and try to steal our economy. While they try this, we have lost our wealth and have many young men without work.'
Hasni's comrade, Mahmoud, adds: 'Each time they kill a civilian, they make a fighter in that person's family. Day after day, they are creating more resistance.'
Perfect conditions for free and fair elections. Hell, the US doesn't and can't control this town, after running a brigade through it.
posted by Steve @ 12:54:00 AM